They have played three times, and all three games ended in a tie. Expect another hotly-contested match Wednesday night when the Miami FC plays the Tampa Bay Rowdies at home in the third round of the U.S. Open Cup – the 104-year-old knockout tournament, similar to England’s FA Cup.
The winner advances to a fourth-round road game against Major League Soccer’s Orlando City on June 14.
“This is a game about guts and pride, and it’s going to have that big-game atmosphere on the field,” said Miami FC midfielder Michael Lahoud. “It’s about who wants it more. Every 50-50 ball is going to be a battle. It’s going to be a chippy game. Tampa Bay is our biggest rival, dating to last season, so it’s fitting we play each other in the Open Cup. We’re going to leave everything on the line for the right to get the next big prize, the chance to play an MLS team and show we can go toe-to-toe with the big boys.”
Miami plays in the NASL, and Tampa Bay in the USL – both second division leagues behind MLS. Players on both teams are eager to prove the gap between them and the majority of MLS players is not that great. The U.S. Open Cup offers 80 teams of all levels a shot at the oldest soccer trophy in America, and the $250,000 prize that goes with it.
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Miami advanced to the third round by beating the South Florida Surf 3-2.
MLS teams have dominated the tournament over the past 20 years. The last non-MLS team to win was the Rochester Rhinos in 1999. Lahoud says his team, which sits in first place in the NASL standings, would like to be the next.
“We would love to beat Tampa Bay and then beat an MLS team and send shock waves through the sport,” he said. “In a cup format, anything can happen over 90 minutes or 120 minutes, or even PKs. We want to make our ambition a reality.”
Tickets are $5 for adults (children 12-under free) for Wednesday’s 7:30 p.m. game at FIU’s Riccardo Silva Stadium. Parking is available in Lot 7 and the CSC lots starting at 4 pm.